In New Jersey, a paying spouse has the right to request a modification or termination of alimony payments if he or she has experienced a significant loss of income through no fault of their own. For instance, if a paying spouse has been laid off due to an economic recession, or is forced to stop working due to a major disability, the court may allow for a decrease in the support amount. However, a change of circumstance in the recipient spouse's life may also trigger a modification request. A common example is in the case of a wife who was earning considerably less than her husband during the marriage. After the divorce, the wife is fortunate enough to find a better paying job, where she earns a salary that is comparable to her ex- husband's. The husband files a motion to reduce or eliminate her alimony payments, citing her improved economic status as a qualifying “change of circumstance”. Although legal grounds for alimony modifications due to a receiving spouse's improved finances are not as strong as those based on the paying spouse's reduced finances, the court will closely examine the individual circumstances surrounding each case. In addition, the court must consider numerous factors, such as whether or not the plaintiff met the burden of proof in establishing a legitimate change of circumstance. The court will also scrutinize the existing divorce agreement to see if there are any terms or lack thereof that could support the plaintiff's argument. Ultimately, it is up to each judge's discretion to decide whether or not alimony should be reduced or continued, but there are steps you can take during the divorce process to ensure that your alimony rights are protected.
Defending Yourself From An Alimony Reduction in Monmouth County
The most important step in defending yourself against alimony reduction or termination is to include specific provisions in your divorce agreement. For instance, you may want to specify in your divorce agreement that alimony will continue on a permanent basis, or be guaranteed up to a certain period of time even if you find a better paying job. If there is an expectation of open durational alimony due to the length of the marriage, in which you sacrificed your educational and career opportunities for the benefit of your spouse, those details should be included, as well. If your spouse signs off on an agreement with such details, he or she may not have legitimate grounds on which to request a modification later on. It may also be helpful if you can show the court that you are not living an excessive lifestyle, meaning that most of your alimony is being spent on providing for your basic needs. Although such cases are not common, some paying spouses have been successful in having alimony payments reduced because of the recipient spouse's irresponsible spending habits. However, this does not mean that the court expects you to live a frugal lifestyle, nor is your economic self- sufficiency automatic grounds to decrease or eliminate spousal support.
Speak To A Matrimonial Attorney
There are many other factors in determining an alimony reduction/ termination case, which you should discuss with an experienced divorce attorney. Obtaining effective legal representation is essential, since you will have to fight for your alimony rights in court. To find out all your available legal options, please speak with Partner Vincent C. DeLuca, Esq. of Villani & DeLuca. Mr. DeLuca has been a family law attorney for over 20 years, specializing in areas such as spousal support and post-divorce modifications. Please call (732) 965-3404 to schedule a free consultation with Mr. DeLuca.